Where Do You Draw the Line?

Over at Active Response Training, Greg Ellifritz has a terrific post today about where we draw the line in terms of decisions we might make in the face of a violent crime. Do we hand over our wallet? Our car? Our clothes? Our children?

These are decisions we should think about ahead of time, because prior thought and planning displaces the “fight/flight/freeze” response that arises from circumstances catching us off-guard.

The criminal in Greg’s case made an unusual demand of his victim: After taking the man’s wallet, he demanded his pants. And this is a problem for more reasons than just embarrassment, as Greg explains:

Taking off your pants involves being temporarily in a very vulnerable unbalanced position.  It would be difficult to defend against a physical attack with your pants around your ankles.

If you carry a firearm, it is likely to be discovered when you take off your pants, further limiting options for resistance.

Think about why the criminal would ask for your pants.  He’s probably trying to maximize his chance for escape by putting you in a position where you are too embarrassed to give chase or fight back.  Besides those obvious advantages, think about the other issues involved.

Greg goes on to suggest that we consider ahead of time the decisions we might have to make and the places where we draw our personal boundaries. What are the things you aren’t willing to give up? What are the things you aren’t willing to give up even when they cost you your life? Conversely, there are things I AM willing to give up if my judgment in the moment is that doing so would end the threat. I’ve talked about this a bt before, but wanted to expand on it after reading 

Here are some of the decisions I’ve made for myself:
  • I will not allow myself to be restrained. If someone wants to restrain me, I will fight or escape even if someone gets hurt. The reason for this decision is simple: However bad things may be for me in that moment, they’ll never be any better after I’m tied up.
  • I will not allow myself to be forced into a vehicle. Same reason. As bad as things are for me here and now, they won’t be any better if I allow the predator to isolate and control my location.
  • I will not give the attacker a child who is in my care. This means my daughter, of course, but it also means friends’ children when I’m out in public with them. Compliance and submission are not options here. Enough said.
  • I will surrender property, if it appears in the moment that doing so will end the crime. Criminal wants my cell phone? I’ll throw it one way and run the other. Purse? There’s nothing in it that can’t be replaced. My car? Sure – have fun looking in the dumpster for the keys while I make a strategic retreat and call for help. Stuff can be replaced. HOWEVER…
  • I will not surrender any weapons I am carrying, and I will not surrender clothing or possessions which would have the effect of better arming my attacker. Back to Greg’s example, I won’t hand over my pants, because an attacker who gets my pants also gets two knives. If I had a gun in a purse, I wouldn’t hand over the purse. As i see things, my odds of survival don’t improve by handing my attacker better weapons.
  • I will submit to sexual assault, but only if my judgment in the moment is that temporary compliance will buy me an avenue to escape or resist. This is a tough one for me to write, to be honest. But the truth is, I’ve survived sexual assault before. That said, sexual assault is a profound escalation of violence sufficient to justify the use of deadly force, and so I would only comply with this demand if I thought that temporary compliance would buy me space and time to more effectively resist or escape.
You might find, as you do this exercise, that your list and mine differ in small, or large, ways. Each of us has to make these kinds of decisions for ourselves. But I would strongly encourage you to do the exercise, to think these issues through ahead of time. You’ll be better able to react in a crisis if you’ve already done the hard mental work of thinking about the scenarios and making decisions beforehand, in a calm and unstressed environment.


Only you know what your personal boundaries are. But you should KNOW, and you should be explicit about the knowledge. It might just save your life someday.

Photo: stock.xchg

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